Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. -National Center for Children in Poverty
It is difficult to quantify the impact grinding poverty has on a child’s cognitive, physical and emotional development, but it is pervasive and it is devastating. From poor nutrition to patchwork, substandard childcare to distressed and demoralized parents who often don’t have the time, energy or confidence to parent proactively or the money to feed, clothe and shelter these children in a way that will keep ravaging anxiety at bay, these already challenged children almost always grow into challenged adults.
A wonderful writer who calls herself Mean Rachel introduces us to one such child in Texas. Please meet Zekarius:
What I will never understand is how those who claim to want to break this often multi-generational cycle of poverty and sometimes dependance on government services do not understand if intervention isn’t substantive and doesn’t occur in early childhood, you’re just using bandaids to try to stop bleeding from a ragged hole run through a hand with a metal rod. It will never work.
First you triage; stem the surge of blood and give a tentatus shot to save the whole. Then you gently and carefully close the grievous wound. You encourage healing in the injured extremity using treatments that research and history say actually work. Then you strengthen the hand with therapies that will allow it to function as all other parts of the body function. You integrate the healed hand into the whole.
It takes time to integrate the once wounded hand into the whole. It takes effort. It takes skill and creativity. It takes money to repair a grievous wound. It just does.
If we don’t work to help strengthen vulnerable families, how can we expect those challenged American children to grow into the hardworking, taxpaying American adults? It makes no sense.
Family values value families. I’ve heard an awful lot about the former throughout my adult life but seen almost none of the latter.
Don’t you hear the heartbeats? Thank you, Rachel, for letting us borrow your stethoscope.
From the National Center for Children in Poverty (bolding mine):
…42% of (American) children live in low-income families.
Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor health and mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty.
Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. But effective public policies – to make work pay for low-income parents and to provide high-quality early care and learning experiences for their children – can make a difference.